Tag Archives: history

A kind of introduction

“History is a kind of introduction to more interesting people than we can possibly meet in our restricted lives; let us not neglect the opportunity.” — Dexter Perkins It’s not surprising that the people who tend to show up in history books are interesting types.  But as I’ve often said here, I think everybody is …

Continue reading

It is all there

“London has the trick of making its past, its long indelible past, always a part of its present. And for that reason it will always have meaning for the future, because of all it can teach about disaster, survival, and redemption. It is all there in the streets. It is all there in the books.” …

Continue reading

Due gratitude and respect

“Thus the hurry of spirits, that ever attends the eager pursuit of fortune and a passion for splendid enjoyment, leads to forgetfulness; and thus the inhabitants of America cease to look back with due gratitude and respect on the fortitude and virtue of their ancestors, who, through difficulties almost insurmountable, planted them in a happy …

Continue reading

Like a hand waving

“Time was passing like a hand waving from a train that I wanted to be on.” — Jonathan Safran Foer This has to be one of the most evocative analogies I’ve ever known.  It captures perfectly the wistful experience of watching years roll away, just far enough from us to be out of reach. It …

Continue reading

A kind of artist

“We have neglected the truth that a good farmer is a craftsman of the highest order, a kind of artist.” — Wendell Berry History tells us much about the wide-ranging though conflicted brilliance of Thomas Jefferson.  Aside from his celebrated love of books, farming may have been his greatest passion. He and his trusted gardener …

Continue reading

Out of confusion

“I feel anxious for the fate of our Monarchy or Democracy or what ever is to take place. I soon get lost in a Labyrinth of perplexities, but whatever occurs, may justice and righteousness be the Stability of our times, and order arise out of confusion. Great difficulties may be surmounted, by patience and perseverance.” …

Continue reading

The past belongs

“It’s not that I belong to the past, but the past belongs to me.” — Mary Antin We can only wonder about the future, but in a very real sense, the past does belong to us.  Not only our own individual pasts, but the entire past, all of recorded history and much of unrecorded history …

Continue reading

The light of the past

“…everything is illuminated in the light of the past. It is always along the side of us…on the inside, looking out.” ― Jonathan Safran Foer I think it’s interesting that the rapidly accelerating understanding of genetics is co-occurring with an increase in hobbies related to ancestry.  Scrapbooking, photography, genealogy, cultural studies, family reunions and organized …

Continue reading

A vast university

“The whole of Paris is a vast university of Art, Literature and Music… it is worth anyone’s while to dally here for years. Paris is a seminar, a post-graduate course in everything.”  –– James Thurber People who love Paris and didn’t love school might not agree with Thurber, but I connected with his description immediately.  …

Continue reading

The articulate audible voice

“In books lies the soul of the whole Past Time: the articulate audible voice of the Past, when the body and material substance of it has altogether vanished like a dream.” — Thomas Carlyle There’s at least one realm where the past, present and future really do co-exist, and that is in the world of …

Continue reading

Where there is no danger

“What kind of man would live where there is no danger? I don’t believe in taking foolish chances. But nothing can be accomplished by not taking a chance at all.” — Charles Lindbergh On this day in 1918, the U. S. Postal Service issued its first airmail stamp.  The price was 24 cents, equal to …

Continue reading

The way you see

“Your past is important because it brought you to where you are, but as important as your past is, it is not nearly as important as the way you see your future.” ― Tony Campolo Some of us are fascinated with history, seeing many lessons in the past, and finding much to like there.  Others …

Continue reading

The last best hope

“The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation…We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best, hope of earth.” — Abraham Lincoln First time visitors to Washington DC often notice that the various monuments located near the mall appear much closer to each …

Continue reading

Very valuable

“What a pity that I didn’t keep my childhood – it would be very valuable now.”  — Ashleigh Brilliant One year ago today, I wrote about the April birthday shared by my father and my brother.  I had forgotten that my father’s father, who died when I was a baby, had almost had the same …

Continue reading

A nation that does not know

“In the words of a very famous dead person, ‘A nation that does not know its history is doomed to do poorly on the Scholastic Aptitude Test.’…We constantly see surveys that reveal this ignorance, especially among our high school students, 78 percent of whom, in a recent nationwide multiple-choice test, identified Abraham Lincoln as ‘a …

Continue reading

On my farm

“I had rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world.” ― George Washington Washington didn’t just say those words, he lived them.  At the close of the American Revolution, and again at the end of his presidency, he willingly set aside his power and returned to Mount Vernon.  Strolling the grounds of …

Continue reading

Rivers are roads

“Rivers are roads that move.” — Blaise Pascal I’ve always been fascinated by maps; I could literally sit and study them for hours.  One of the first things I noticed as a child, when I would look at maps, is how the cities of America seemed to cluster along rivers and coasts.  There’s a logical …

Continue reading

Time and culture

“You’ve got to marinate your head, in that time and culture. You’ve got to become them.” ― David McCullough I think one of the best and quickest ways to defeat despair is to read a bit of history and contemplate what life used to be like.  I’ve found that nonfiction often seems best for this, …

Continue reading

Success is stumbling

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” ― Winston Churchill One of my favorite places in California is the haunting Donner Memorial State Park near Truckee.  It’s beautiful country, but there’s an eerie stillness that lingers in memory of the tragic history of the Donner Party, for whom the park …

Continue reading

So much happiness

“He went to the church, and walked about the streets, and watched the people hurrying to and fro, and patted the children on the head, and questioned beggars, and looked down into the kitchens of homes, and up to the windows, and found that everything could yield him pleasure. He had never dreamed that any …

Continue reading

Share to the full

“Let the children have their night of fun and laughter. Let the gifts of Father Christmas delight their play. Let us grown-ups share to the full in their unstinted pleasures before we turn again to the stern task and the formidable years that lie before us…”  — Winston Churchill, in his Christmas Eve message of …

Continue reading

Despite overwhelming odds

“We salute the veterans and survivors of Pearl Harbor who inspire us still.  Despite overwhelming odds, they fought back heroically, inspiring our nation and putting us on the path to victory.  They are members of that Greatest Generation who overcame the Depression, crossed oceans and stormed the beaches to defeat fascism, and turned adversaries into …

Continue reading

The last thing you expect

“The last thing you expect or want in life is often the first thing to take you on your journey to life.”  – Timothy Shriver Not long before he died, John Lennon wrote a song that popularized (although it did not originate) a much-quoted truth: “Life is what happens to you while you’re making other …

Continue reading

I am glad

“Let others praise ancient times; I am glad I was born in these.” – Ovid There’s a lot to think about in this brief quote.  For one thing, isn’t it amusing to realize that Ovid lived in comparatively modern times, at least as he saw it?  Terms such as “ancient” and “modern” are relative, aren’t …

Continue reading

A graveyard can teach you

“Spending time in a graveyard can teach you a lot about living. When I stopped at each grave I swear I could almost hear the silent stories of perfect strangers. Their tombs like silent philosophies of all the ways a life can be lived.” — Simone Nacerima Graveyards are a common motif at this time …

Continue reading